Solution-Focused Brief Therapy for Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and (Dis)Ability
“Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.” – Tony Robbins
What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a short-term, goal-directed, and present and future-oriented therapy that instills hope, promotes change, and offers relief from your very first session. It begins with identifying your goal(s), creating a clear detailed vision of when the issue that brought you to therapy is gone or no longer a problem. Then, collaboratively, we move forward on the path toward achieving your goal(s).
SFBT is client-centered, strengths-based, and inclusive. It highlights your unique experiences, beliefs, and emotions, expands on your existing resiliencies and resources, and focuses on your goals throughout treatment.
SFBT is an evidence-based counseling approach shown to effectively treat a wide range of issues.
What can SFBT help with?
- Stress (Coping with Stress and Life Transitions)
- Anxiety (Managing and Treating Anxiety Disorders)
- Depression (Overcoming Depression)
- Trauma/PTSD (Healing from Trauma/PTSD)
- Anger management issue
- Relationship Issues
How does SFBT Work?
SFBT is grounded in the belief that clients are experts in their own lives and that they possess the necessary strengths and abilities to help solve their problems.
Core Principles of SFBT
- If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
- If it works do more of it.
- If it isn’t working, do something different.
- A very interesting phenomenon you may find yourselves in is a cycle of repeating something over an over and expecting a different outcome. In fact, you may do that activity more frequently and with more effort despite seeing no positive change, maybe even seeing the problem get worse. What if you tried something different that could break the cycle and improve your situation?
- Small steps can lead to big changes.
- Ironically, focusing on small steps leads to more change more quickly than trying to do too much too soon, which tends to be overwhelming and counter-productive.
- The solution is not necessarily directly related to the problem.
- For example, someone with a (dis)ability may not be seeking therapy to change what has happened to cause their impairment (for which there may be no fix) but instead to find “solutions” that help them adjust to changes in their abilities, cope with discrimination, and live a happier and more empowered and productive life.
- The language for solution development is different from that needed to describe a problem.
- As we know, words are very powerful. Focusing on what you want rather than what you don’t want instills hope, provides direction, and drives you forward on your path toward your goals.
- No problem happens all the time.
- No matter how challenging your situation, there are always exceptions to the problem (times when the problem is not quite as bad or not there at all) that can be explored and used.
- The future is not set in stone.
- The future is created and negotiable.
Main SFBT Interventions
- Utilize a positive, collaborative, and solution-focused stance
- SFBT incorporates positive psychology, takes a team-work approach, and remains focused on your goals throughout treatment.
- Look for previous exceptions to the problem
- Exceptions are times when the problem, for whatever reason, is not as bad or does not exist or happen. Exploring those exceptions helps generate solutions.
- Look for previous solutions
- This involves searching for coping strategies or solutions you’ve used in the past that may be useful now.
- Co-constructing new coping tools or solutions
- Together, we’ll build on your existing strengths and resources and generate new ones that are tailored to your unique needs and help you achieve your goals.
- Questions vs directives or interpretations
- Let’s be honest, we typically don’t like to be told what to do, even when asking for help. Working with this natural tendency, SFBT uses questions instead of direct advice or interpretations to help explore possibilities and create change.
- Present and future-oriented questions vs past-oriented focus
- While most would agree that our past has a significant influence on who we are today, reliving it tends to keep us stuck in it and unable to be present, imagine a different future, and make changes toward the life we want.
- Highlight successes
- We’re naturally wired to focus on the negative, the things that can cause us discomfort or pain. This instinct helps us to survive but can become overactive and cause us problems. Since what we do, think. and feel are connected, it’s important that we balance our perspective to include reminders of what we’re doing well.
- Encouragement to do more of what is working
- As you experience success with previously forgotten or overlooked coping tools/solutions and with new ones, you’ll be encouraged to continue to do what has been helpful. Keep in mind that what is helpful is unique to each person and, barring any concern for your safety or someone else’s, I make no judgements on what is helpful for you. It only matters that it works!
Specific SFBT Techniques
- Pre-session change
- You may find you start to improve right after you schedule your very first session. This is understandable, as you’ve taken a very big first step to positive change, and taking that step has likely energized you, given you a sense of accomplishment and hope that is already driving you toward your goal. To help keep that momentum going, we’ll explore what those changes have been and how they’ve happened.
- Solution-focused goals
- Your goals for therapy are the focus throughout treatment, are explored in detail, and are achieved one doable step at a time.
- Miracle question
- If you’re having a hard time imagining life without your problems or without your problems affecting you as much, the miracle question can help you envision that desired life and start to see the path forward in achieving that life.
- Scaling questions
- Scaling questions help you explore exceptions and solutions, break your goals down into doable steps, and measure your progress along the way.
- Exception questions
- Exception questions specifically help you search for those times when the problem happens to be less severe or not present for no apparent reason. We’ll investigate what is different during those times that we may use purposefully to help move us forward.
- Solution-finding and constructing
- As a solution-focused and strengths-based approach to therapy, SFBT searches for and expands on prior and possible solutions (strengths, resiliencies, coping skills, resources) from the very beginning of treatment. This instills hope, promotes change, and offers relief from the start.
- Coping questions
- It’s normal for things to get worse before they get better during therapy. It’s part of the change and growing process. The good news is that those down times can tell us a lot about how you cope to help keep things from getting even worse and how you get out of those slumps. This information can be very useful in building on your coping strategies/solutions.
- Experiments and homework
- SFBT is a very active treatment approach. You’ll be invited to do tasks between sessions to help facilitate your progress in therapy. The tasks are decided together and usually stem naturally from the work we did in that session. Clients more often than not assign their own homework, and you may find that assigning your own homework increases the likelihood that you do it.
If you feel like you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, or (dis)ability-related issues and think you may benefit from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, please contact me today for a free consultation. I would be happy to speak with you about how SFBT can help you with your specific needs and goals.